American Horror Story Season 10 premiere recap: Cape Fear & Pale

American Horror Story season 10: Double FeatureAHS - Key Art. CR: FX
American Horror Story season 10: Double FeatureAHS - Key Art. CR: FX /

American Horror Story has finally returned after an extended hiatus, and I have to say I’m not sure how I felt about the two-hour Season 10 premiere. However, most people seem to have enjoyed it. American Horror Story Season 10, or “Double Feature,” begins with the episodes “Cape Fear” and “Pale.” We start with the introduction of the Gardener family.

Harry (Finn Wittrock) is a struggling writer who moves his family to a house in Provincetown after his pregnant wife Doris (Lily Rabe), an aspiring interior designer who gets most of her inspiration from Instagram, gets asked to redecorate a house in exchange for letting them stay there for three months.

On the surface, this appears to be a great opportunity for Doris to get more experience and for Harry to buckle down and write the television pilot script he’s owed his studio for months now. Doris, Harry, and their daughter Alma (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), a passionate violinist, relocate to P-Town and soon find an eternally overcast small town ruined by an opioid epidemic.

Even worse, strange Nosferatu-style vampires are lurking around every corner. Within a day of their arrival, Doris and Alma are attacked by one of these creatures in broad daylight. The next day, Harry gets attacked and bludgeons the monster to death on the dining room floor. Unfortunately for the Gardeners, the local police Chief Burrelson (Adina Porter) isn’t much help.

But before they decide to pack and leave town to find a safer place in Nantucket or Cape Cod, Harry connects with two successful writers living in the area, Belle Noir (Frances Conroy) and August Summers (Evan Peters). Harry is shocked to learn they’re hanging out in a place like P-Town during the winter months.

American Horror Story Season 10 premiere recap: Harry gets a tempting offer

The eccentric duo recognizes a kindred spirit in Harry, who is still struggling to write anything. August slips him a nameless black pill that he swears will turn him into a successful writer overnight. Harry takes it and is shocked to discover that it works.

In the car on their way out of P-Town, Harry is suddenly overcome with the perfect idea with his television show. He races back into the house to crank it out on his laptop, becoming obsessive about it to the detriment of his relationships with his wife and daughter. Suddenly, Harry is caustic and dogmatic to the point of insinuating Alma is jealous of him because she’s unable to master Paganini on her violin while he’s churning out a brilliant screenplay.

He eventually makes amends with Doris and Alma, who agree to remain in P-Town for a few more days to finish his script. But the side effects of the pill start to get weirder. Harry develops a taste for blood and juices raw steaks in a blender to drink the fluids. At one point, Doris cuts her finger, and Harry can’t resist latching onto the fresh blood flow, spooking his wife.

Obviously, there is more to those black pills than August or Belle let on, so he returns to the source to find out what the deal is. That’s when we get clarification on what the drug is and what it does. August doesn’t say what’s in it, but it was created by someone named The Chemist and those who take the pill suddenly become overcome with the muse and able to create amazing art.

But the pill only works if you actually have raw talent. Remember those creepy creatures that attacked Harry and Doris earlier? That is the result of taking the pill if you don’t have talent. You just become a withered, endlessly hungry husk. The pill depletes you of four core minerals, which Belle and August have learned to replenish by drinking blood from humans.

MORE: AHS: Double Feature Confirms Cast of Part 2

Harry doesn’t want to accept that the only way for him to have success is to become a bloodsucking murderer, but as August says, success is addictive. He can’t resist the siren call of the pills. When he returns to August and Belle, they take him on a hunt for a real kill.

American Horror Story Season 10 premiere recap: The rules of feeding

They claim to only feed on addicts and criminals, believing their actions to be a community service to the town. The only rules are never feeding in P-Town and always keeping your gloves on (which isn’t really explained yet, but I’m guessing because of fingerprints?). Plus, Belle and August say they only take the pills during the winter months and then vacation the rest of the year.

After the feed, they recommend Harry get his teeth fixed by Dr. Lark Feldman (Billie Lourd), another pill user in town. Leslie files Harry’s teeth to sharp points so he can get a cleaner feed (and kill fewer people as a result). Later, Harry makes his first kill alone.

Back at the house, Alma is still struggling to master Paganini. Having witnessed her father pop one of the pills, she takes one herself behind her mother’s back. Then she practices her violin for hours upon hours. When Doris begs her to take a break, Alma shows that same antagonistic streak as her father, claiming that Doris doesn’t understand her and Harry’s need for perfection because Doris is just “average” and has no talent.

She obviously hits a weak spot as Doris has already proven herself to be vulnerable, mentioning several times that she feels left behind by her husband as if he doesn’t value her passion and job the way he does his own.

In the final moments of the double premiere, Doris notices that Alma is missing. Harry says he let her take a walk on her own.  Doris goes to track her down and finds her hunched over a headstone, eating a raw animal! Uh-oh, now Doris has two vampire-adjacent creatures in her house. And is Alma going to turn into one of those creatures? Does she have the talent necessary to get the benefits of the pill?

American Horror Story Season 10 premiere recap: Mickey & Karen

Apart from the Gardeners, the other side plot in the first two episodes revolves around Macaulay Culkin’s character Mickey and Sarah Paulson’s Karen. Karen is known as “Tuberculosis Karen” in town because she’s always coughing and appears to be sick. Karen also knows all about the pills and the dark effect they have on users.

As an opioid addict, Karen is frequently tasked with doing horrendous things for Belle (like bringing her a live baby to feed on) in exchange for drugs. And Mickey, a male prostitute, knows Belle because he often has sex with her and sometimes lets her drink his blood for money.

Karen eventually starts staying with Mickey, and he tries to entice her into trying the pills with him. Mickey is an aspiring writer, too and has started multiple screenplays but never finished them. Likewise, Karen has artistic aspirations. Mickey bought several of her paintings from a thrift store and uses them to encourage Karen to try a pill. Why shouldn’t they get to share in the success of people like Belle and August?

But Karen is fiercely against the idea of becoming like Belle, having witnessed the horrors that she commits on the regular. So Mickey takes one without her. It remains to be seen if he’ll become a success or if he’ll turn into one of the haggard beasts that roam the town.

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What did you think of the American Horror Story Season 10 premiere? Will you watch the rest of the season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

New episodes of American Horror Story Season 10 premiere Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.